The More Things Change…

Lisa writes: Growing up in the 1970’s, in a swirl of social change, it was easy to see that the world we would inhabit as adults would be radically altered from that of our childhood.  So far, this has proven to be true. But humans only change so fast and there at things that remain unaltered and leave me wondering why.



Ask a group of married woman what the most important decision of their lives was and a large number will say it was the choice of a spouse.  Yet women wait for men to ask them for their hands in marriage.  We grab the reins of our lives pursuing education and employment and in both we demand to be treated as equals.  And then, we wait…for a ring, for a proposal, for him to make up his mind…and leave this crucial moment in our lives in the hands of men.


Title IX was passed in 1972, thereby requiring that girls have equal access to athletics from kindergarten through college.  We urge our daughters to participate in sports and stand on the sidelines cheering them on.  And, yet, the audience for and interest in women’s sports is a tiny fraction of that of men’s athletics.  We give women’s sports our money, but not our interest, why?


My children studied history, English, math, science and foreign language in high school. They studied the exact topics in the exact same order that my parents had, more than half a century earlier.  I admit to knowing nothing about education, but I know that our world and the job market have changed radically and yet, nothing about the way my kids were educated reflects those seismic changes.


When my sons go out with girls they pay.  I have taught them to do this while, at the same time, teaching them that women are completely equal and should earn as much as men at any job.  They go to the gym with their female friends and run miles, lift weight  and then, as they are leaving the building, they do as I have taught them, and hold the door. At the very least I gave them a mixed message.


I easily drive three times as far as my husband over the course of a year.  He works nearby and like many SAHMs I run a virtual taxi service.  Yet when we are in the car together, he drives, as if somehow he is the more expert driver.  Our experience is both typical and difficult to explain. When women and men drive in a car together, why do men drive more often?  


No matter how many different ways a woman can find to make herself more beautiful, someone always invents another.  We revere natural beauty and leave no part of the female body unaltered.  Over the course of my life, I have seen more and more time, money and anxiety directed towards a woman’s appearance.  How many hours a week does a women devote to improving or thinking about improving her appearance, including beauty, diet and clothing?  Yet my husband and sons are doing no more to make themselves attractive/presentable than my grandfathers did in their day.


Many couples have joint checking accounts, women work and earn salaries but it seems, more often than not, men pay the check, monitor family finances and complete tax returns. We women work on Wall Street, get degrees in accounting and bookkeeping, work as bankers and run swaths of companies (as per Sheryl Sandberg’s description of her own life) and then we come home and let the men in our lives manage the money.

It never occurred to me that the massive social changes of the late 20th century would mean that some things would change beyond recognition (e.g. the number of women in medical school) and other things barely at all (e.g.the number of women CEOs).  That so many patterns of male/female interaction would remain unaltered, was an outcome I could never have predicted.

I might have guessed as the importance of women’s accomplishments rose, the focus on their physical appearance would diminish.  I would have been wrong.  I would have predicted that as we cheered girls on the sports fields we would watch women on the sports channels, and again I would have been wrong.  The more things have changed, the more glaring are those that remain the same.



  1. says

    I really enjoyed reading this post because, having been born in the 50’s, I have seen a ton of changes yet so many things are the same as when I was little. I agree that we give our kids mixed messages. I am a SAHM as well, so I give my son a mixed message. He would never “do the dishes” because he says it’s women’s work. Well, he’s seen me do them all his life and so what would I expect him to think? He’s seen me wash everyone’s clothes, take care of everyone when they’re sick and on and on. Then he watches my husband go out the door in the morning and return later in the day from his “real” job. Well…. How do I get across to him that I have a B.A. and an M.A. and chose to be a SAHM after working for many years out in the “real world”? Some day maybe he’ll understand.

  2. Carpool Goddess says

    So true, Lisa! Our electronics are high tech and beyond what we could have imagined, but it seems little else has changed.

  3. says

    Great insight! I think one of the examples that creates the biggest conundrum for me is the “holding the door” issue. I see that as good manners. My son should open the door for his wife, just as I hold open the door for my mom. I think the trick is when to factor in gender roles and when to look at things in a gender blind way.

  4. says

    A lot to think about with this post. It was interesting for me to mentally note which things in your list did or did not apply to my own family. The driving one in particular made me laugh, because it sounded to me like you answered your own question. Who, after doing most of the driving all week, wouldn’t want the other person to drive for a change when they go out together? My husband and I split the driving pretty fairly, and whoever had to do the most recent driving usually gets a break next time we get in the car.

  5. says

    True and kind of funny, Lisa. Why my husband drives when we’re both in the car. And he’s driving MY car – he drives a truck. Like women are equals but men pay for dates, and men give the marriage proposal. You always have a fresh, but makes you think, perspective.

  6. says

    Your point on marriage rings especially difficult in my family right now as my oldest daughter (31) waits for her boyfriend to make a decision on whether to stay, go, propose, continue being an ass. I wish she had the gumption to ask him to marry her — or hit the road.

    Many of the other points I found interesting because they’re different in my marriage. I do the majority of the driving when we go anywhere together; his driving makes me nuts and there are fewer arguments if he just gives up the wheel to me to begin with. Finances? We do ours separate and have for many years. We’re on each other’s accounts, but we manage our own, pay bills according to the amount we bring in, spend according to what is in our OWN accounts.

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  8. Kat says

    This is a great post with so much the younger generation can learn from. Thanks for sharing.

    Along the lines of “the more things change, the more things stay the same” I’d argue that certain chores and errands are frequently segregated by gender (so even if your husband helps around the house, you’re the one who’s doing the laundry while he’s taking out the trash). More of the same.

    Finally, looking back to the 1970’s is interesting for comparison’s sake, but I recently saw something that compares life today to the 1960’s and the differences were even more substantial. The cost of living was enormously reduced and times were just different:


  1. […] Lisa writes: Last week Roger Cohen, op-ed writer for The New York Times, excoriated Baby Boomers for being the “Twitter-Bashing Bores.” In his piece his chastised the generation born after the war for the curmudgeonly practice of belittling our children’s addiction to their screens and for the social media that connects them. He reminds us that our parents despaired of us, of our music, our clothing and our mores and reminds us that “More things do not change than do.” […]